Paul showcases his supreme sheep dog skills
A man from Glenealy has showcased his sheep dog handling skills in exemplary fashion by winning not just the national Irish trials but also finishing eight overall in the Supreme competition run between Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales.
Paul O'Donnell, who is originally from Donegal, has been living in County Wicklow for 20 years and is a Garda by profession. However, he has always had a passion for shepherding and sheep dogs.
He competed in the International C Sheep Dog competition which was held over three days at Gill Hall, Dromore, Co Down.
However, to qualify for that event he had to get through the national finals which he did in emphatic fashion by winning the overall title on Achill Island in July.
His faithful dog, Tim, was born and bred in Knockcroghery, Co Roscommon, by established sheep dog breeder, Pat Byrne.
Speaking to this newspaper about his success Mr O'Donnell said the national finals win allowed him to go forward as Captain of a 15-member Irish team who went up against similar sized squads from England, Scotland and Wales.
Each of the national teams had to qualify from 150 entrants which meant that by finishing eight in the Supreme competition Mr O'Donnell had won his way into the top 10 out of 600 international competitors.
The Supreme competition was won by a Welsh handler, Kevin Evans, with his dog Preseli Ci.
'There were a number of different competitions over the three days with two of them being taken up with the team shield event,' he said.
'Over the two days you try to qualify for the Supreme championship which I was lucky enough to do,' he added.
It was his first time making the national team and also his first time competing at international level.
Mr O'Donnell was the only Irish representative in the Supreme final and he was also the highest pointed handler in addition to being the highest pointed newcomer.
Mr O'Donnell worked with sheep dogs when he was growing up in Donegal having been introduced to trailing and shepherding by his father, Jimmy. He started trailing when he 12-years-of-age but stopped six years later.
'I returned to dogs and trailing about six years ago,' he said.
Two other men from Wicklow also competed in the national event: Paddy Fanning, from Glenealy, with his dog, Bruce, and Joey Walsh, from Dunlavin, with Peg.
While they performed well in the national event they were unlucky not to also qualify for the Supreme final.
There were two aspects to the competition over the three days; the first saw the combined results of the various team members being tallied to produce an overall team result while the second saw individual scores being allocated to each of the competitors and their dogs.
While he is delighted with his success this year the hard work all begins again now ahead of next year's national competition.
'It all goes back to scratch now and you have to qualify again next year,' he said.
Mr O'Donnell also commented that one of the problems he faces is finding places big enough to train his dogs and said he is always available to carry out some part-time shepherding for local farmers.